The Gold winners were announced April 6 2018 in Austin Texas. Tyree Artist of the South Pacific by CJ Cook won two Golds for "Best Biography" and "Best Cover Design - Large Format"
Ralph Burke Tyree was an American artist who was a prolific portrait artist of the South Pacific peoples of the 20th century. He was from central California and his art education took place in San Francisco (California College of Arts and Crafts and California School of Fine Arts). Seven weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he joined the Marines and was soon shipped off to Samoa. Private Tyree was befriended by his Commanding General and became the Marine-base artist.
His portrait art career began painting the officers and their loved ones while corresponding with 10 000 word love letters to his girlfriend Margo back home in Turlock California. His works were exhibited at the de Young museum in San Francisco on multiple occasions. After the war he married Margo started a family and began his professional career. He traveled back to the South Pacific to live for years in places such as Guam Oahu Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. Often from there he would travel to other island paradises: Palau Fiji Tahiti Samoa and the Solomon Islands over his thirty-year career.
Most of his first works were sensual island wahines in island beach and jungle settings. He painted primarily with oils on board but also occasionally on canvas and with pastels. To add depth and texture he switched in mid-career to painting with oils on fine French silk black velvet. This was in the midst of the 1960s' Tiki revolution and many of his nude pieces would be displayed in Tiki bars and restaurants. Tyree was likely the most prolific South Pacific and Tiki artist of the 20th century. In the 1970s he started painting endangered animals to call attention to their limited numbers. He died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty seven in 1979.
CJ Cook is an author and historian who has a long interest in the history of South Pacific. He has written many articles including publishing biographical sketches on historical figures. Cook is a lifelong manuscript collector who has special interest in art poetry Hawaii and the South Pacific. He is a board member of a prominent manuscript association dedicated to preserving manuscripts historical documents and the written word. He also is a collector of art and artists of the South Pacific including Ralph Burke Tyree Edgar Leeteg Edithe Beutler Madge Tennent Cece Rodriguez and William Bloom. Some of the pieces illustrated in this biography are from the author's collection.
And finally he has and continues to explore the South Pacific including: Guam Pohnpei Truk Palau Bali Tahiti and its surrounding islands New Zealand Australia and its Great Barrier Reef Taiwan and the Hawaiian Islands. The latter paradise he visits multiple times a year. :
"Tyree Artist of the South Pacific CJ Cook South Pacific Dreams Publishing (Aug 15 2017) Hardcover (224pp) 978-0-9984224-0-4 Tyree's oil paintings of Polynesian models have become iconic types Cook's collection is a fitting tribute. Ralph Burke Tyree was the kind of artist whose work will be familiar to many who don't know him by name as his paintings of the South Pacific exemplified the post-World War II craze for Polynesian imagery. C. J. Cook makes his Tyree Artist of the South Pacific a clear labor of love and a definitive look at the artist's life influences and creative output. Tyree's art career began when he was stationed in Samoa as a private in the Marine Corps painting portraits of the officers or their loved ones or wall murals of Polynesian scenery. He is probably best known for his South Pacific nudes which he began painting while in the marines and continued crafting on black velvet in the style of 1950s and 1960s Tiki bars. His oil paintings of Polynesian models have become iconic types. Still his work beyond them was far more diverse including an excellent series on endangered animals vivid Polynesian landscapes and clever wartime depictions of his future wife back home. Tyree Artist of the South Pacific includes dozens of well-produced examples of the artist's work from his early and unpublished pieces to his trademark velvet paintings. The book excels in delivering additional information including interviews with Tyree's adult children (whose own stories and artistic endeavors receive a short chapter near the end) their anecdotes and memories help flush out the artist's biography. Family photos and other artifacts further enhance the biographical side of the work. The book successfully puts Tyree in context discussing how earlier Western artists/writers from Paul Gauguin to Robert Louis Stevenson found inspiration in the South Pacific. It briefly introduces the work of the other black-velvet artists among Tyree's contemporaries and explains the role that wartime life played in forming Tyree as a painter. The combination of the artist's biography with his collection makes Tyree Artist of the South Pacific a fitting tribute." - Jeff Fleischer (July/August 2017) Foreword Review